Imagine my delight when I spotted a middle-aged gentleman in the south aisle during Mass last Sunday inclining his head as the cross was carried past and crossing himself in all the correct places. Someone who knows what they're doing! I thought. It turned out that I should have remembered he was going to be there, as he was one of the churchwardens from Ashbury, visiting Swanvale Halt to collect my spare set (well, one of my spare sets) of black vestments. Ashbury is a small town not far away from us. Fr Charles, the Nigerian-born curate at the church there, is apparently stiffening the Catholic resolve of his incumbent and as a result I had an email a couple of weeks ago from Mr Churchwarden asking whether Ashbury could borrow a black set to celebrate All Souls' Day on the 2nd. I can not only lend you a black set, I replied, I can give you a black set: the one given me by S.D. when he retired a couple of years ago. I take deep pleasure in the fact that such a thing could even occur to you down in the darkest Surrey wilds.
That made me realise that although I have long since shared with you my lovely black set from Parmoor Abbey (a whole six years since, terrifyingly enough), I have another lot that has never yet found its way onto this blog. So, as All Souls' Day has now just passed, here it is.
Some years ago I was trawling eBay for ecclesiastical tat, not with the intention of buying anything but just amusing myself. And this appeared: I'd never seen its like before, and never have since. The silver embroidery is traditional on requiem sets, but the Art Deco styling definitely is not.
I battled with my conscience as to whether I should bid for it, egged on by some of my Goth chums (especially one with an enthusiasm for Art Deco). I had a black set and didn't need another one. But look at it. Look at it. It is, as far as I know, unique. The Lord remained resolutely silent on the matter, as he usually does. Eventually, as you can rationalise anything if you try hard enough, I reasoned that if I didn't buy it, it would only go to some tat-collector who would keep it in a drawer. As it turned out, nobody else seemed to want it, so it came to me and one day I will pass it on so that it can carry on being used. At the moment I use it for the quarterly requiems at Swanvale Halt and reserve the Parmoor set for All Souls.